Me, me, me — entrepreneurship and culture

    Business Spotlight 8/2020
    Nintendo Switch
    © iStock editorial/
    Von Professor Peter Franklin

    Why on earth is the German government putting €250 million into to subsidize sth.etw. subventionierensubsidizing the development of video games? Aren’t there enough bright spark (UK, ifml.)Intelligenzbolzen; hier: schlauer Kopfbright sparks with good ideas or enough people with money to invest in such games in Germany?

    One of the answers, according to commentators, is that other countries are subsidizing the business, so Germany has to to follow suitnachziehen, dasselbe tunfollow suit. Another is that existing games are often set in fictional countries or countries outside Europe. And in order to be subsidized, the potential game has to pass a culture test: is it set close to home?

    But culture may play a further role in the programme and even explain and legitimize subsidySubventionsubsidies unthinkable in other parts of the world. The values and preferences of individual members of a particular country culture influence and shape the institutions and practices found in that country. The economic functioning of a country does not escape that impactEinflussimpact.

    According to some researchForschung, Studie(n)research, and also simple observation, highly individualist cultures  (see box below)  such as Anglo-Saxon ones seem better equipped to to foster sth.etw. fördernfoster entrepreneurshipUnternehmertumentrepreneurship. People with a good idea in such cultures seem better able to turn it into a money-making machine. With his modifications to the steam engine in 1776, James Watt kick sth. off (ifml.)etw. in Gang setzenkicked off the Industrial Revolution in Britain and, after getting the support of the right backerUnterstützer(in)backer, became a very wealthy entrepreneur. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos are US examples from the modern age.

    Individualist cultures

    Individualism is the concept of people seeing themselves as individuals acting independently of others without feeling that strong obligations exist between people. It is a dimension of culturally influenced variation in values and has “collectivism” at its opposite extreme. The individualism index of intercultural researcherForscher(in); hier: Wissenschaftler(in)researcher Gert Hofstede ranks the USA, Australia and Great Britain as clearly the most individualist cultures. These countries are followed some considerable way behind by Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, France, Sweden and Germany, which occupies a place at the bottom of the upper third of the surveyedbefragt; hier: untersuchtsurveyed cultures. Individualist cultures value self-fulfilment and individual freedom. Their economies tend to be based on individual rather than societal interests, with the state to keep a low profilesich zurückhalten; hier auch: sich heraushaltenkeeping a low profile.

    The go-getting (ifml.)umtriebig; hier: von Durchsetzungswillen geprägtgo-getting personal values and preferences, passed on and to nurture sth.etw. fördernnurtured in interaction in individualist societies, are at the very heart of entrepreneurship. Independence and competitiveness, doing your own thing regardless of your in-groupEigengruppein-group, the seeking of stimulation and self-enhancementSelbstverstärkung; hier: Selbstwerterhöhungself-enhancement — all individualist preferences — tend to promote risk-taking, creativity and innovativeness.

    At the same time, country-level values in individualist societies tend to offer space in the way of institutions and practices for entrepreneurs to put into practice and commercialize their ideas. Entrepreneurial activity is socially legitimized. Frameworks and structures arise to support entrepreneurs. The state tends to leave business to get on on its own. Regulation is typically limited, and private venture capitalRisiko-, Beteiligungskapitalventure capital is readily available. Shareholder capitalism to predominate over sth.gegenüber etw. überwiegenpredominates over the stakeholderAnspruchsberechtigte(r)stakeholder variety.

    So, where does this leave Germany? Surprisingly for many people perhaps, research shows Germany to be much less individualistic than Anglo-Saxon cultures. This can be seen, for example, in the general acceptance in Germany of a social market economy. This means that society as a whole, the collective, should also profit from economic freedom and initiative — and not just individuals holding capital. The German economy is also shaped by group-oriented actors such as works council (UK)Betriebsratworks councils, unionGewerkschaftunions, employers’ associationArbeitgeberverbandemployers’ associations and industry associations.

    James Watt’s invention and those of other British inventors and entrepreneurs meant that the Industrial Revolution began in the UK many years earlier than it did in Germany. This disadvantage of being a “late industrializer” was sensed politically in Germany in the early 19th century and led to the state, industrial banks and industry associations providing support and stimulus (pl. stimuli)Anreizstimuli to business to to catch upaufholencatch up.

    So, in a way, the €250 million of state support for the video gaming business is the continuation of a long tradition in Germany.


    Peter Franklin is professor of intercultural management at Konstanz University of Applied Sciences. His work in HR development helps people and organizations to understand, handle and leverage cultural diversity. Contact: 

    Peter Franklin

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